With ulcerative colitis, you can expect to live as long a life as you would if you didn’t have the disease. No matter how well you control your ulcerative colitis, you can still have flares on occasion, but your inflammatory bowel disease is not likely to shorten your lifespan.
If you are like most people, you were diagnosed between 15 and 30 years old. Ulcerative colitis is a chronic condition, so while it isn’t something that is likely to take years off your life, it’s something you will have to live with for a long time.
The key is to work with your healthcare providers to get the best medical care for you and your disease. Everyone with ulcerative colitis is affected differently. You’ll want to lower your chances of experiencing flares, which can be debilitating. Some people with mild disease can do so by staying away from certain foods. Others may need medicines to control the inflammation. And still others — though not most — may need surgery to remove the colon.
You’ll want to work with your healthcare providers to lower your chances of getting really sick. Complications can happen, and, if severe enough, can result in death. One of the most serious complications is colon cancer. Ulcerative colitis increases your risk of colon cancer, especially if it involves your entire colon.
Your risk of colon cancer with ulcerative colitis increases the longer you have the disease. After 8 years with ulcerative colitis, you may need colonoscopies every 1 to 3 years for colon cancer screening. These colonoscopies can help prevent precancerous lesions from becoming full-blown cancer.
Another possibly fatal complication is a toxic megacolon, which could cause your colon to stop working and, in more severe situations, rupture. However, this is a very rare condition and only more likely if you don’t keep your ulcerative colitis under control.
By working with your healthcare providers to control your ulcerative colitis and create an individualized treatment plan, you should be able to live a long life.
- Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation. Living with Ulcerative Colitis. December 2018. Available at: https://www.crohnscolitisfoundation.org/sites/default/files/legacy/assets/pdfs/living-with-ulcerative.pdf. [Accessed August 10, 2020].
- Cedars-Sinai. Ulcerative Colitis. Available at: https://www.cedars-sinai.org/health-library/diseases-and-conditions/u/ulcerative-colitis.html. [Accessed August 10, 2020].
- Rubin DT, Ananthakrishnan AN, Siegel CA, Sauer BG, Long MD. ACG Clinical Guideline: Ulcerative Colitis in Adults. Am J Gastroenterol. 2019 March;114(3):384-413. doi: 10.14309/ajg.0000000000000152.
- U.S. National Library of Medicine. Toxic megacolon. October 16, 2019. Available at: https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000248.htm. [Accessed August 10, 2020].